Care Together: A co-operative and mutual enterprises support program
Care Together Program
$7 million over 2.5 years has been made available to fund the Care Together Program, Australia’s first co-operative and mutual enterprise support program in social care. The Program runs until June 2025. The Program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care and will be delivered by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), the national cross-sector body for co-operatives and mutuals in Australia. The Program runs until June 2025.
Sue Frost, P&L Corporate Communications 0409718572
Care Together is an education, advisory and support program that will assist successful projects to develop sustainable service delivery in areas where current approaches are failing, including a focus on regional, rural and remote parts of Australia.
In 2021, responding to the Royal Commission into Aged Care, the BCCM published Action to Empower: Why Australia needs more co-operative and mutual enterprises in health, community and social services. The report focused on the potential contribution of co-ops and mutuals to innovation and reform in aged care and disability services, informed by evidence from international case studies.
The Care Together Program will demonstrate innovative solutions for improving the appropriateness and sustainability of social care services in areas where other models are not working. Cross-sector, multi-disciplinary models will be an important focus of the Care Together Program and aligned to these high-level program outcomes:
- Supporting the establishment of innovative models of social care delivery (including aged care, disability care, veterans’ care, Indigenous services, allied health and primary care) in areas where current approaches are not working
- Increasing opportunities for providers of social care to transition to co-operative and mutual models to address workforce challenges and improve service delivery
Care Together will provide education, advice and capacity building to:
- Support the development of new co-operatives or mutuals to deliver care
- Support growth and scaling projects working with existing co-ops and mutuals
- Facilitate the co-design and development of a user-tested prototype to establish a digitally enabled member-owned co-operative to support service delivery in areas of unmet need by providing back-office functions for smaller providers
The BCCM is a member of a global movement of member-owned enterprises formed for a social purpose. It seeks to live out the seven Cooperative Principles and to support members and the broader movement to build a better world by aligning business and purpose, putting people before profits.
Internationally, co-ops deliver care around the world in massive numbers; co-ops play a key role in the EU’s directives on the care economy and care co-ops deliver aged and disability services across Italy. The largest worker-owned co-op in the US is Co-operative Home Care Associates, a network of 2000 non-residential carers and key employer of marginalised women in the Bronx.
100 million households worldwide enjoy access to healthcare thanks to cooperatives, and the presence of this enterprise model has been confirmed within the health systems of 76 countries. In Australia, three million people have health insurance through a non-profit (mutual) insurer.
Opportunities for the co-op and mutual sector to contribute:
- The BCCM is a network of 101 co-ops and mutuals active in all parts of the Australian economy
- Australia has around 1,900 co-ops and mutuals
- 8 in 10 Australians is a member – but there are 31.7 combined memberships
- They directly employ 76,000 Australians
- Their combined turnover is $34.3 billion
- For every $1 spent in a co-op, 76 cents is reinvested in the local community
Read more about the BCCM’s Care Together Program to start and grow more co-ops and mutuals in social care.
For all media enquiries, please contact Sue Frost, P&L Corporate Communications 0409718572
Contact the Care Together Program Manager, Gillian McFee – email [email protected]
Related media coverage
- Australian government funds national scheme to develop social care co-ops (Co-op News, 8 April 2022)
- ACSA and co-op peak sign MOU (Australian Ageing Agenda, 1 September 2021)
- Melina Morrison spoke with Fran Kelly about Action to Empower and Aged Care on ABC Breakfast (ABC Breakfast, 11 May 2021).
- What aged care could look like (Financial Review, 11 May 2021)
- BCCM chief says co-ops can solve problems for care and farming sectors (Co-op News, 6 February 2020)
- Co-ops could offer economic inclusion to indigenous Australians, says BCCM report (Co-op News, 21 December 2019)
- BCCM launches Disability Inclusion Toolkit for co-ops and mutuals (Co-op News, 6 December 2019)
- Social care from Australia’s Co-operative Life (Co-op News, 3 July 2018)
- Employee-led mutual to deliver NDIS services in SA (Pro Bono Australia, 19 February 2018)
- Co-op model would meet challenges facing elderly care in rural Australia, says expert (Co-op News, 15 August 2017)
- BCCM launches $7m social care program (23 January 2023)
- Co-operatives and mutuals a key focus of Budget funding for aged care innovation (30 March 2022)
- A strong economy is every Australian’s business: BCCM responds to the Federal Budget (30 March 2022)
- The key to aged care transformation is consumer choice (11 May 2021)
- Service diversity is key to aged care transformation (1 March 2021)
Co-operatives and mutuals are member-owned businesses formed to benefit the people who use them or work in them, rather than shareholders. Designed around seven international co-operative values and principles including open and voluntary membership and democratic member control, co-ops and mutuals empower their members to be active participants in the enterprise.
Eight in 10 Australians are members of at least one co-operative or mutually owned organisation. These include organisations formed to provide social care including aged care and disability services, primary health care, housing for health key workers and people living with disability, veterans’ care and Indigenous services.
Co-ops and mutuals can have different types of members. Members can be:
- Individuals, as in customer owned banks (building societies, credit unions and mutual banks like Bank Australia and Great Southern Bank)
- Businesses, such as small and medium enterprises that operate independently within a bigger co-operative (Plumbers’ Supply Co-operative and Go Vita Co-operative)
- Agricultural and food producers, often owned by farmers, growers or fishers (CBH Group, Norco and Dairy Farmers Milk Co-op)
- Policy holders, as in mutual health funds (HCF and Australian Unity)
- Roadside assistance members (RACQ, NRMA, RAA and RAC WA)
- Employees in worker co-operatives or employee-owned enterprises (Kudos Services, ARUP). Australia’s member-owned super funds are also mutuals
Social care mutuals deliver social care through co-operative or mutual structures. This means that members of the organisations, who can be the consumers, the carers, the community or any combination of these, are involved in decision-making and benefit from its activities, including through the reinvestment of trading surplus.
Co-operatives and mutuals operate in aged care and disability services, community health, Indigenous services, veterans’ services and social housing.
Co-operative and mutual structures can increase diversity and choice in health, community and social services with positive outcomes for accountability, innovation, quality and productivity.
Co-operatives and mutuals generate benefits through their autonomy and independence, decision-making by members, member economic participation, reinvestment of profits and co-operation.
- Increase organisational diversity in social service markets: Co-ops and mutuals can assist smaller service providers to come together in a mutual to collaborate and operate more efficiently in a market.
- Harness the professionalism of carers and unleash their entrepreneurialism: Employee-owned organisations are an alternative to privatising or outsourcing services. Government can sponsor innovation like Kudos Services, Australia’s first public service mutual.
- Increase consumer choice and control by helping individuals and communities to formulate their own responses to problems in client directed care markets: Co-operatives and mutuals develop empowerment through community-owned co-operatives.
There is evidence that when carers and consumers are empowered through democratic governance, productivity and workplace satisfaction increases dramatically.
Co-operatives and mutuals are enterprises that deliver consumer choice and control as well as efficient and innovative service delivery. Social care mutuals are well placed to support community resilience where services cannot be delivered due to market or other service provision failure.
Co-operatives and mutuals have advantages in delivering services in areas that are not well services because they are small scale, remote or complex. They have proven particularly useful when:
- Services are too expensive for government or market forces to provide
- Profits are low or variable
- Specialised service is needed
- User input is required in service design and delivery
Social care mutuals can have different structures, depending on who their members are.
The South Australian and federal governments have shown the way by helping recently to set up the $47 million Early Childhood Early Intervention mutual. Under this model, the staff will be the same former public servant carers, giving the children and their families continuity of care and, crucially, retaining the bond of trust between them. This is particularly beneficial for services delivered under the NDIS – people who experience complex health challenges benefit from familiar treatment providers. They also don’t need to keep retelling their patient history.
Supporting Independent Living Co-operative (SILC) has stepped into the gap left between public and private sectors to connect NDIS participants, families and carers and help them establish their own family-governed homes for people with a disability.
The Co-operative Life is a worker-owned business established in 2013 in response to the desire of care workers to have empowered, vocationally rewarding employment in non-residential aged care.
Human services delivered by employee-led mutuals in the UK have consistently been rated higher by their users than government or privately delivered services. One reasons for this is better staff retention, meaning that service users are treated by the same staff across the life cycle of their treatment plan. (BCCM, 2018, Submission to the Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers inquiry)
International analysis has highlighted that when ownership and participative management are combined, substantial business gains result. Employee ownership increases employee engagement and work satisfaction, helps improve individual and company performance and ensures workplaces are more diverse, inclusive and sustainable. (Pro Bono News, 18 May 2016, Ownership Disruption in the Sharing Economy)
BCCM CEO, Melina Morrison, welcomed the Government’s funding of the Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises (CME) Support Program with a 2.5 year rollout. “This funding is recognition that the aged care and broader care sector should explore business models better suited to people-centred care. Co-operatives and mutuals are organisations that are owned and run by members, such as consumers, non-profit service providers, care workers or people in the local community. Co-operatives and mutuals are ideally suited to the provision of aged care and broader care services because they place those being cared for, as well as those providing the care, at the heart of the solution. In a co-op, people, not profits, are the beginning, middle and end purpose of the business.” – Melina Morrison, CEO BCCM, media alert, 23 January 2023
“This package is recognition that the aged care and broader care sector must explore new business models. Co-operatives and mutuals are organisations that are owned and run by members, such as consumers, non-profit service providers, employees or people in the local community. The Royal Commission demonstrated clearly that the current system is broken and not able to provide the level of care and respect that older Australians deserve. We need new perspectives and innovative solutions that address the shortcomings highlighted by the Royal Commission and ensure people have access to quality services regardless of where they live. Co-operatives and mutuals are ideally suited to the provision of aged care and broader care services because they place those being cared for, as well as those providing the care, at the heart of the solution. In a co-op, people not profits are the beginning, middle and end purpose of the business.” – Melina Morrison, CEO BCCM, media alert, 30 March 2022
“We believe when older Australians and care workers are empowered through ownership – as members of a co-operative, they find creative solutions that draw on community and family networks in a circle of care,” Ms Morrison said. “Co-designing solutions with smaller regional and remote communities is also an opportunity to involve other health and care professionals in a place-based circle of integrated care.” – Melina Morrison, CEO BCCM, media alert, 30 March 2022
“There are highly effective co-operatives operating in social care sectors, including the NDIS, with potential to increase their impact in areas that struggle to deliver quality services.” – Melina Morrison, CEO BCCM, media alert, 30 March 2022
“The Co-operative and Mutuals Support Program will foster a sharing of information and knowledge about the co-operative business model to replicate and grow these successful models in other communities.” – Melina Morrison, CEO BCCM, media alert, 30 March 2022
“Research from Australian and UK case studies included in the Action to Empower report shows that member-owned models offer three main benefits:
- Improved organisational performance and efficiency
- Consumer and employee engagement, with a resulting influence on service improvement and workforce development; and
- Wider benefits to society resulting from a greater sense of citizen empowerment and responsibility,” McFee said.
“There is an opportunity to embrace innovation and build on co-operatives’ and mutuals’ proven successes, by applying lessons learned from these case studies to improve service quality and consumer outcomes in Australia’s aged care sector. A new perspective on how we deliver Aged Care is essential if we are to apply a new paradigm designed to deliver care that is befitting Australians in 2021.” – Gillian McFee, Non-Executive Director of Kudos Services, an employee-owned mutual delivering disability services for children and young people, and author of Action to Empower said the benefits of member-owned social care organisations were clear, 27 January 2021, Member-owned aged care puts the consumer at the centre
“Human services delivered by employee-led mutuals in the UK have consistently been rated higher by their users than government or privately delivered services. Reasons for this include they have better staff retention, so the service users are treated by the same staff across the lifecycle of their treatment plan.” – BCCM, 2018, Submission to the Select Committee on the Future of Work and Worders
“Employee ownership increases employee engagement and work satisfaction, helps improve individual and company performance and workplaces are more diverse, inclusive and sustainable.” – Antony McMullen, Ownership Disruption In the Sharing Economy, Pro Bono News, 2016
“Social purpose organisations in Australia have a rich history of innovation. In fact it is core to our civil society, it is core to the civil society organisations. We in Australia have never been shy of innovation, and now is the time to grasp, in what I believe is a great opportunity to improve the quality of care in aged care, but also look at new models that play a part in the way in which services are actually delivered, especially in those that are most vulnerable. ” – Robert Fitzgerald AM, NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner, Member-owned Governance and Innovation in Aged Care Roundtable, 25 August 2021
“Reforms across the human services landscape have created an opportunity and capacity for a different model to emerge, especially between employees and consumers.” – Robert Fitzgerald AM, NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner, Member-owned Governance and Innovation in Aged Care Roundtable, 25 August 2021